Classic works, brought to the stage is what Light Opera Works is all about! FYI- they will be changing their name to Music Theater Works next year, not for content , to be sure, but because many fear the word “opera” in their old name (36 years of quality in musical theater and more). So rest assured, you will continue seeing musicals such as their excellent “My Fair Lady” in Evanston. This production, finely directed by Artistic Director Rudy Hogenmiller has one major drawback; it will only be available to audiences thru June 12th, which is very little time to see a solidly built production such as this.
Of course, “My Fair Lady” is the musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Lowe, and it follows the story about the poor flower girl and her mentor as they help each other in one of Broadway’s most memorable “battle of the sexes”. In the role of Professor Henry Higgins, Hogenmiller has cast the perfect actor, Nick Sandys, who by the way will also be doing this role in the original “Pygmalion” in November (www.RemyBumppo.org), so you can have an opportunity to see both versions and compare or just enjoy! He performed this role at Light Opera Works back in 2009. He is even stronger in this production!.
Sandys, who comes complete with his own accent and a marvelous stage presence makes Higgins much more realistic than most who bring this character to the stage. He even carries a tune, which most often is not the case for actors in this role. Even with a few glitches on opening night, Sandys is so loveable as the mean chauvinistic Higgins, you cannot help fall in love with his cuteness. Playing Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl who wants to be a “lady in a shop” is Elizabeth Telford, who brought her rendition of Sarah Brown to last season’s “Guys and Dolls” at Light Opera Works, and she handles this role to sheer perfection. Her vocal range is amazing ( evidenced with “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Just You Wait” as well as her “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”), her smile delightful and her stage presence, keeps up with Sandys- there is magic on the stage at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston!
Playing the role of Colonel Pickering, Higgins’ partner in the transformation from flower girl to Duchess, is Kirk Swenk, a regular at Light Opera Works. While I was unsure of this casting, he brings a little different touch to the role and makes him more realistic and part of the day- to- day action. Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle, the comic relief character in this story, is deftly handled by Cary Lovett, who brings a true fun -loving portrait of a man who “wants to be heard, waiting to be heard and needs to be heard”. His “With a Little Bit Of Luck” and “Get Me To The Church On Time” are masterfully done!
This brings us to the ensemble, who make the musical numbers and the performance complete. These are the actors/singers/dancers who change costumes and personalities over and over again, filling the streets (and stage) with urchins, servants, Ascot patrons, royal guests and bar patrons. They are: Kryssy Becker, Joshua Black, Stephen Boyer, Kelly Britt, Rory Connolly, Erik Dohner, Nic Fantl, Amanda Giles, Jody Goldman, Marian Kaderbeck, Elissa Newcorn, Patrick Perry, Michael Pine, Maggie Clennon Reberg, Russell Alan Rowe, Laura Sportiello, Wade Tischhauser and Charlie Ward- great work from this powerful ensemble. Clayton Cross’s choreography is a pure delight to watch and this ensemble is up to every task he placed before them.
I certainly do not want to forget some other cast members, such as William Dwyer who brings a special feeling to Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the young upper-crust man who becomes smitten with Eliza as she does her “small- talk”. His “On The Street Where You Live” is wonderful, and of course Mrs. Pearce, Higgins’ housekeeper (well played by Anne Marie Lewis) and Henry’s mother, Mrs. Higgins,the charming and adorable Joan McGrath. The musical numbers are amazing as always at Light Opera Works as they do the complete score with a full orchestra conducted by Roger L. Bingaman. They do musicals the way they were meant to be done-Bravo!
The other amazing thing about this company is that despite the short run, the costumes (Theresa Ham), sets (Adam Veness), lighting (Andrew H. Meyers) and sound (Aaron Quick) are all first class and as well done as any major theater in the Chicago area. Again, the biggest problem with the productions brought to life at Light Opera Works is the length of the run- far too short for the number of patrons who should see these marvelous theatrical experiences. If you want to get your opportunity, “My Fair Lady” will continue at the Cahn Auditorium located on the campus of Northwestern at 600 Emerson Street (this is where Chicago Avenue meets Sheridan Road) through June 12th with performances as follows:
Wednesday, June 8th 2 p.m.
Thursday, June 9th 2 p.m.
Friday, June 10th 8 p.m.
Saturday , June 11th 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 12th 2 p.m.
Tickets start at $34 (under 25 half price) and can be ordered by calling 847-920-5360 or online at www.LightOperaWorks.com
Running time is near three hours, BUT, the quickest 3 hours you will ever spend in the theater.
There is parking along Chicago Avenue and a parking garage just one block south of the auditorium
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “My Fair Lady”